WESTCHESTER, Calif. — Instead of avoiding the unhoused at Westchester Park, Stephanie Popescu seeks them.
On Tuesday, she was happy to learn another person was getting ready to move into transitional housing while she waits for something permanent.
What You Need To Know
- Councilmember Mike Bonin is looking at several locations for safe camping in his district, including Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park, LAX property and parking lots at Dockweiler Beach and Will Rogers State Beach
- The proposal is in early stages, but the backlash is mounting. On Monday, protestors shouted over Bonin at an emergency press briefing for the Palisades Fire at Will Rogers State Beach
- Supporters said safe camping will provide stability to unhoused people while they wait for permanent housing solutions
- Backlash is fueling an effort to recall Councilmember Bonin, who is also up for re-election in 2022
“That’s always the goal, to get people permanently housed. It is just that it takes a few steps to get there. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of resources that honestly are slim pickings around here,” said Popescu, who co-founded the outreach group Grass Roots Neighbors and has a background in social work.
Popescu, who is also a mother of a toddler, said Westchester Park is still one of their favorite places, despite about 40 tents scattered throughout the grass. She supports the idea of creating a city-sanctioned, safe camping site at the park.
“When you don’t provide things like bathrooms or food or resources, then people are forced to get creative so by providing those services, you’re actually making it safer and cleaner and better for everybody — housed and unhoused,” she said.
Councilmember Mike Bonin is looking at several locations for safe camping in his district, including Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park, LAX property and parking lots at Dockweiler Beach and Will Rogers State Beach.
“In all cases, the proposed solutions would provide security, sanitation and services, and focus on getting people into housing. These are not encampments. They are an emergency response – an alternative – to encampments, and they are temporary solutions meant to get people off the streets and into homes,” Bonin said in a statement to Spectrum News 1.
The proposal is in early stages, but the backlash is mounting.
On Monday, protestors shouted over Bonin at an emergency press briefing for the Palisades Fire at Will Rogers State Beach.
Longtime Westchester resident Matt Stayner supports a potential recall, which could happen just months before Bonin is up for re-election in 2022, in part because he no longer feels safe bringing his kids to Westchester Park.
“This is designated as public park space, for the public to use, same as beaches,” Stayner said. “I’m completely opposed.”
Stayner said some of the parks new campers are struggling with mental health disorders and addiction and can be openly hostile.
To Popescu, however, those people need services and stability while they wait for permanent housing.
“The problem is here already. People are not going to just be gone,” she said.